Pocahontas (Matoaka)

6, 7, 8

This lesson will emphasize that, from the beginning, women have made significant contributions to American history and philanthropy by taking a stand to support their beliefs. One of these women who showed courage to contribute to the common good was Pocahontas.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • describe how Pocahontas contributed to the “common good” of the people of Jamestown.
  • give an example of a core democratic value exhibited through the actions of Pocahontas.
  • speculate on the cause/effect relationship of Pocahontas’ actions.
  • A reading about Pocahontas. This can be taken from a textbook, the book Sisters in Strength or Internet resources (see Bibliographical References).
  • Soundtrack “Colors of the Wind” (see Bibliographical References)
  • Student copies of Core Values of American Constitutional Democracy (see Attachment One)
  • Student copies of Pocahontas (Matoaka) and Core Democratic Values (see Attachment Two)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students will interview a parent or interested adult about a woman in history who significantly helped others. They will ask what this person did for the common good and ask why the adult chose this person above others.



  1. Anticipatory Set:Put the word “history” on the board. Ask the learners to define the word. Put the word “herstory” next to it on the board. Ask the learners to define the word. Explain that women have made contributions to our heritage and to the common good. Define common good as something that benefits the whole community.

  2. From their previous knowledge, ask the learners to make a list of famous women in American history. Allow five minutes for this activity. While students are working, play the music from the Pocahontas soundtrack (“Colors of the Wind”). After students are finished, make a group list on the overhead or board from their lists of famous women. Tell students that many of the women they have named have had to “take a stand” because of their beliefs and they have given of their time, treasure and talents (philanthropy) to contribute to the common good. Ask students if they recognized the music that was playing while they were making their lists. Identify the music and tell them that Pocahontas (Matoaka) was one woman from history who took a stand that benefited others.

  3. Distribute Core Values of American Constitutional Democracy (Attachment One). Go over the definition of core democratic values and then discuss each Fundamental Belief and Constitutional Principle.

  4. Distribute or read your selection about Pocahontas or have the students go online to obtain her story. Tell students that they should notice the ways that Pocahontas took a stand on an issue that benefited others. Tell students that the Pocahontas story relates to core democratic values. Ask them which value(s) they think might apply to Pocahontas and give a reason for this belief. Talk about how Pocahontas was a Native American and explain some of the traditions of Native Americans (respect for nature and other living creatures, shared ownership of land and resources). Her actions showed that she believed in many of the core democratic values, some of which were based on the Iroquis Constitution. Using the idea of cause and effect, ask students to speculate on how things might have been different for the Jamestown community and the Native Americans had Pocahontas’ actions been different.

  5. Distribute Pocahontas (Matoaka) and Core Democratic Values (Attachment Two). Have the learners fill in the information about actions for the common good, stand on an issue, and core democratic value that applies to Pocahontas (Matoaka). You may choose to have them do this activity independently or with a partner. When students are finished, discuss the answer on the worksheet.

  6. Divide students into groups of three or four. Their task is to role play an action that Pocahontas took that benefited the common good of the community of Jamestown. For example, Pocahontas might convince her father, Powhatan, to provide food for the Jamestown settlers. Perform role plays.

  7. Tell students that their assignment is to ask their parents to select a woman from history who gave significant help to others and find out why they chose this woman.


Student learning will be assessed through completion of a worksheet related to Pocahontas (Matoaka) which describes actions on behalf of the common good and taking a stand on a core democratic value. Student learning will also be re-enacted in role plays.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Identify and explain how fundamental democratic principles relate to philanthropic activities.